The story of tea is as old as nature itself; we have been drinking tea on these shores for over 350 years. But, it took an exciting turn in the year 1837, when the Tetley brothers went into business in Yorkshire, England. This is the brief history of tea, Tetley and the tea bag.
The Chinese Emperor Shen Nung is sitting under a large tea plant (Camellia sinensis) while his servant boils drinking water. Some leaves from the tree blow into the water, an accidental infusion takes place, and the cup of tea is born. Well, that’s the legend, anyway!
By now, tea is the national drink of China. It's manufactured in a brick form: the tea leaves are pounded and pressed into a brick-shaped mold and then dried.
In the 1600s, the British East India Company had a monopoly on importing goods from outside Europe. Tea’s popularity was spread by sailors bringing home tea as gifts.
Tea reaches the shores of North America, with the small Dutch settlement of New Amsterdam (later re-named New York by the English) said to be consuming more tea at that time then all of England put together.
Portuguese princess (and tea addict), Catherine of Braganza, marries King Charles II and soon establishes tea as a fashionable drink for the very wealthy in England. Tea was regarded and traded as an expensive commodity for the affluent.
The East India Company places its first order for tea to be imported into Britain.
Britain is now obsessed with tea, but taxes put it out of reach. 5 million lbs of tea is sold legally – but 7 million lbs is smuggled.
By this point, tea is the favoured drink of Britain’s lower classes, in spite of the huge taxes it carries. These taxes are reduced in the middle of the 19th century.
The Boston Tea Party: when British ships arrive in Boston, a band of men board the ships, split open its cargo of 342 chests and throw the lot into the sea. It was a protest over the British taxes.
The famous tea clipper races begin - racing from China around the Cape of Good Hope and into the English Channel. The clippers are then towed up the River Thames by tugs, and the first ship to throw its tea cargo onto the docks in London is the winner.
Joseph and Edward Tetley start to sell salt in Yorkshire, England. In time, they add tea to their repertoire. Good move.
The Tetley brothers move to Cullum Street, London, just yards from the tea auction rooms. They eventually part ways, and Joseph unveils the newly named “Joseph Tetley & Co., Wholesale Tea Dealers”.
Tetley took his son Joseph "Junior" into partnership. Business flourished, and the company extended its services to include blending and packing.
The company was ready to take its next major step – an agreement with American agents to distribute Tetley's teas throughout the United States.
At the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904, a heat wave leads tea planter Richard Blechynden to add ice to his tea. It causes a sensation, and iced tea is born.
A happy accident. New York tea merchant, Thomas Sullivan, sent samples of tea to customers in small silken bags, which people wrongly assumed were supposed to be placed into tea pots, rather than emptying out the contents. Consequently, the much-loved tea bag was born!
Tetley’s British representative, T.I. Tetley- Jones, goes to America and brings back the idea of the tea bag.
In 1940, the first Tetley tea bag machines, known as the “Grey Ladies”, stitch 40 tea bags a minute for export.
To great public joy, World War Two tea rationing is finally lifted, and the foundations are laid for Tetley to bring the tea bag to the UK market for the first time.
Tetley introduces the Drawstring tea bag which was designed to help give the same great taste as our original tea bag, just without the mess.
By now, Tetley tea bag sales have soared to 5,000 tons a year.
Tetley is the first to launch round tea bags. They are especially well suited to the growing popularity of brewing tea in mugs.
By now, Tetley Canada offers a wide variety of teas outside of Orange Pekoe and the specialty tea canister is born! Our innovative re-sealable Tetley canisters bring a range of green teas, flavoured black teas and herbal teas to delighted Canadian consumers.
Carefully sourced from the Cedarberg region of South Africa and perfect for our caffeine-free tea lovers, Tetley introduces rooibos to Canadians through the launch of our Red Tea.
Every week, Tetley buys one million kilos of tea for making countless cups of Tetley tea that the world enjoys every day.